Every year, Lynnette provides Madison with the same set of prompts regarding her view of me. It’s my favorite part of Father’s Day that’s evolved over time. At first, the whole enterprise was cute. This was before Madison could form thoughts that were her own. Over time, they morphed into “clever” and now I feel some of Mad’s answers bear an unmistakable tinge of shade. To my surprise, this year Lynnette added Cole and Avery to the mix:
Madison crushed the first five questions but then went for a variation of a jokes she made last year about my penchant for wearing swim shorts when we’re not even swimming. It was a nice try, but it’s better that she learn this way that sequels are almost always inferior to the original and sometimes can miss as badly as this and The Rise of Skywalker. Mad makes a comeback with the mention of carbs as she’s making a not-so-subtle dig at my many, many failed attempts at sticking to a no/low carb diet. As usual, she’s not wrong. I’ve tried so many damned different types of impasta – lentil-based, edamame-based, zucchini-swirls, and all any of them do is make my stomach sore and emphasize to me how badly I took pasta-pasta for granted my entire life. The “secrets of sous vide-ing” is another solid, mild burn (but inside an airtight bag) that I respect. Then she gets to our summer with the last two answers to the prompts. I agree. Beach and MCU movies have carried the summer of 2020 so far. She deserves it. She made it through the 6th grade at Damien and a rough quarter of at-home schooling. We’re still locked in a blood feud, but we’re also both still alive, so…silver lining?
See? Cole took me back to a time when reading these things were mostly cute. The blue and orange/8 shirt combo is correct but was more correct like 15 years ago, so maybe when he said that I was 30, that’s the version of me he was talking about. I don’t know how. Cole never met that guy. My favorite answer on this whole sheet is that I always tell him to “go sheesh”. We’d been potty training him for a while and he had advanced to the point where he could go number 2 on his own and wipe on his own. Oh, there were some speed bumps along the way – a few times Cole Boy sheepishly told me that I needed to get the Clorox wipes because there was “doo-doo cream” on the seat. When I asked how it got there, he hadn’t the slightest idea. Ironically, however, he was having a hard time going number 1 in time. He just couldn’t pull himself away from what he was doing quickly enough to avoid a little wetness in the bebs. I am so proud to say, however, that over the last two weeks, he’s avoided those wet bebs. I forget sometimes, that in so many ways, kids will be ready when they’re ready.
When I got to Avery’s page, I laughed without reading a simple reply. I imagined Lynnette trying to ask the Gray all of these questions and getting straight-up ignored or answered with Avery’s stock fillers like “Kitty!” “Minute Moosh!” and the immortal “Give her pink, please!” When I read Avery’s answers, I smiled because Avery does something that I don’t quite understand but trips me out. Recently, she’s been narrating (that’s the best way I can put it) our trips out of the house. When we drive past the park on the way out and back in, for reasons unknown to us, she will shout “SWIM JACKET”. She’s only failed to say this twice all summer. When we pass the strip mall in Mauka, she says “rubbish” over and over as we pass the dumpster holding area. If she recognizes our location near one of her grandparents’ homes or our house, she’ll start shouting “HOUSE” in a way that intensifies and quickens the closer we get to the house, like this: HOUSE…HOUSE..HOUSE.HOUSEHOUSEHOUSE. On the way back home, she’ll call out our neighbor’s yellow car every time. Her memory for these things is impeccable, even if we aren’t quite sure what she’s getting at sometimes. She floors me.
This summer’s been admittedly a pretty daunting challenge. Since most things are still closed and/or still following “new normal” guidelines, it’s been a little more difficult for us to get to the stuff we usually do during this, the fairest time of the year.
Avery throws fewer out-and-out tantrums, but when she willfully objects to what’s going on, she’s much stronger and faster than she was even a few months ago. To her, it seems very much an attention-seeking game, but for the rest of us, there’s no longer any fun in trying to corral her.
Cole loves the Avengers but when he’s upset, he does this thing where he announces that he’s becoming the Hulk. His face darkens and he starts pulling at his shirt and shorts. He tells us that his “clothes are coming off like the Hulk”. He becomes uncooperative. When we tell him he can’t or ask him “please don’t”, he makes other hyperbolic statements like “I’m so mad I want to rip my face off!” or the one that made me laugh – to his frustration and anger – “I’m gonna take me knee out! I only want one knee!” It sounds comical, I know. And believe me, as it’s happening, sometimes it is. But he’s in this weird spot where it’s like he wants to be mad all the time and I’m worried because I didn’t hit that until high school.
Madison is 12 and so she would rather listen to and confide in her true father, the internet, rather than listen to me. Her entire aim in life is finding ways around or outright out of everything, which – yes, I know she’s 12 – would not be such a big deal if not for Avery and Cole. I can’t do everything. I need her but everything is an inconvenience to her.
All of this is to say I am some place new. I distinctly remember things getting easier as Madison got older, right up until the twins were born. I had hoped that things would begin to turn around at this point, but with everything going on in the world outside of our home, challenges I hadn’t anticipated have complicated things in ways I haven’t quite figured out yet. I think that part’s frustrating me also; I should be better at this by now. Like my athleticism, I can feel my effectiveness as a father waning. I think I am too impatient, quick-to-anger, authoring too many negative self-fulfilling prophecies.
I don’t know if this an official phase of dadhood, I just know I’m here. No one wants to memorialize the rough times. But I am tonight. Because my deepest hope is that some time in the not-too-distant future, I will look back on this and remember how I felt in this moment so that I can appropriately appreciate how far I – we – have come. From here to there, then.